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October 2, 2013

Time to shop for Thanksgivukkah

http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/time_to_shop_for_thanksgivukkah

Gothukkah poster. Photos courtesy of Dana Gitell

Gothukkah poster. Photos courtesy of Dana Gitell

Now that the parade of Jewish holidays has passed, it’s time to start planning for the impending arrival of an unprecedented hybrid: “Thanksgivukah” is coming! 

This year, the first day — and the second night — of Chanukah falls on Nov. 28, which also happens to be Thanksgiving. This particular coincidence, according to one calculation, won’t happen again for some 77,000 years, and some American Jews are pretty excited. 

“I’ve been thinking about it for so long,” said Dana Gitell, who first noticed this curiosity on her calendar about a year ago and has created a line of T-shirts and greeting cards to celebrate the holiday. “My kids can’t wait. They think everybody celebrates Thanksgivukah.”

Gitell, who lives in a suburb of Boston and works in marketing, loves imagining “mashups” of the two holidays — turkeys with latkes, pilgrims and rabbis, dreidel balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgivukah Day Parade. 

The hybrid holiday — which Gitell has chosen to spell with a double-K  “Thanksgivukkah” and holds two trademarks on the usage of that name — offers a chance to celebrate both Jewish and American values, she said. Her cards and T-shirts — designed by Los Angeles-based illustrator Kim DeMarco — use icons of both holidays, and in the spirit of the season, 10 percent of the proceeds from sales will be donated to MAZON, the Jewish anti-hunger nonprofit. 

Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and the next time American Jews will light Chanukah candles at Thanksgiving will be in 2070, when the first night of the festival begins at sundown on Nov. 27. That overlap hasn’t happened since 1918 — although in both 1945 and 1956, Jews in Texas and other states still celebrating “Republican Thanksgiving” on the last Thursday of November may have marked the combined holidays. 

Regardless, because the Jewish lunar calendar is slowly falling out of sync with the solar calendar — with Jewish holidays moving forward through the seasons at a rate of four days every 1,000 years — Chanukah has slowly but surely been moving deeper into winter and away from Thanksgiving.

This year, however, Chanukah begins at sundown on Wednesday, Nov. 27, which means that the entire day of Thanksgiving overlaps with the Jewish holiday. So on Thursday night — sometime during the first quarter of the Steelers-Ravens game, for those on the West Coast — families can fire up two candles in their menorahs, plus the shamash, of course. 

To do so, they may well use a “menurkey” — a ceramic menorah in the shape of a turkey, the brainchild of Asher Weintraub, 9. Asher and his father, Anthony, funded the $25,000 project through a Kickstarter campaign that concluded in early September. 

Then there’s the food — ideas for hybrids like sweet potato latkes and cranberry sauce-filled doughnuts abound. 

“Manischewitz broth is the official broth of Thanksgivukah,” said Courtney Manders, who works with Manischewitz as an account executive at The Bender Group, a public relations firm in New Jersey. The 125-year-old manufacturer known for its matzah and gefilte fish makes a full line of beef, chicken and vegetable broths, Manders said, and last year introduced a new broth — turkey. “That works out perfectly for a lot of Thanksgivukah dishes,” Manders said. 

Manischewitz tapped kosher chef Jamie Geller to come up with some appropriately hybridized dishes and is sponsoring a “mash-up recipe contest” starting in October to identify other culinary ways to celebrate Thanksgivukah. The company also launched an online contest to make a short video about Thanksgivukah, which so far has drawn a handful of ideas, including one titled “Close Encounters of the Thanksgivukah Kind.” The best video wins a prize of $6,000, second place gets $3,000, and videos must be submitted by Oct. 10 to be eligible. (No pilgrims, Native Americans or non-kosher animals, the online brief says — and don’t mention Manischewitz wine, because “that is actually a separate company.”) 

Like all things Chanukah-related, there’s a healthy dose of consumerism involved in this holiday. One listing on eBay describes a box of 12 Shabbat candles in “autumnal shades of Yellow, Orange, Green and Purple” as being ideal “for a peaceful Sabbath at ‘Thanksgivukah’ or throughout the year.” Another seller is hawking a plastic dreidel filled with kosher candy corn as a “Thanksgivukah Special.”

Deborah Gitell — sister-in-law of the Thanksgivukah greeting cards and T-shirts creator — is planning a Thanksgivukkah Festival for Nov. 29, to be hosted by Craig Taubman’s Pico Union Project in Los Angeles. 

She’s trying to raise $18,000 through the crowd-funding site Jewcer to make the festival happen, and said some musical acts — including the Moshav Band and Beit T’Shuvah Band — have already confirmed their participation. The Canter’s Deli food truck and Shmaltz Brewing Co. are also on board; proceeds from the event will support Pico Union’s theater programs and MAZON. 

Thanksgivukah’s attraction lies, for the most part, in its rarity.

“If the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way … [the first day of] Hanukkah will again fall on Thursday, Nov. 28, in the year 79811,” Jonathan Mizrahi, who holds a doctorate in physics and works for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., wrote in a blog post in January of this year. 

Sure, Mizrahi notes, the Jewish calendar is likely to be modified long before then, since Passover must be in the spring. If the Jewish calendar were to be allowed to fall out of sync with the seasons and loop all the way around — Rosh Hashanah in July, anyone? — Chanukah and Thanksgiving would meet again in 76695, when the eighth day of Chanukah coincides with the autumnal American festival. 

“In all honesty, though, all of these dates are unfathomably far in the future,” Mizrahi writes, “which was really the point.”

Dana Gitell’s T-shirts — available for sale at ModernTribe.com ($36) — play up that aspect. 

“Our design is inspired by the logo for Woodstock,” Dana Gitell said of the T-shirts, and compared Thanksgivukah to another relatively recent, once-in-history moment. 

“It’s a bit like Y2K,” she said. “You were there, you lived through it, and it’ll never happen again.”

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